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Review: Mask of Deception and Sacrifice

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I am more than halfway through the Sacrificed Hearts multi-author series of books about maidens falling in love after being sacrificed to "monsters." The third book in the series is Mask of Deception and Sacrifice by Callie Thomas . This book is a perfect blend between The Phantom of the Opera and Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde . It follows the premise of the series more closely than Pearls of Salt and Sacrifice but not quite as literally as Mountain of Dragons and Sacrifice . The story boasts a compelling romance full of drama and passion between two characters who were forced to hide their faces from the world. Its gorgeous artwork is a tribute to the drama and mystery within. This is the darkest story from this series so far, but the author provides a considerate trigger warning at the beginning of the book to prepare readers for the more disturbing parts of it. Fiona is a lost princess from a kingdom that was conquered by prejudice against those with the ability to use illu

Review: Pearls of Salt and Sacrifice

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Pearls of Salt and Sacrifice  by Everly Haywood  is the second book from the Sacrificed Hearts series, which contains six books by different authors about maidens falling in love after being sacrificed to monsters. This book follows a different formula from  others I've read so far  in that the monster sacrifice happens very late in the book and is not the same character as the love interest featured on the beautiful cover art. In fact, this book has three love interests, which is even more than a typical love triangle and makes it unnecessarily convoluted. I had a hard time keeping track of all the characters because the princess was introduced to so many suitors in such a short period. This book also contains a healthy helping of pirate lore, which has never been my cup of tea, as well as krakens , elves , and siren songs all packed into a fairly short novel. Reva is a fiercely independent princess of a struggling kingdom. She is left with no choice but to make a reluctant marri

Review: Mountain of Dragons and Sacrifice

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As a member of the street team for the Sacrificed Hearts series , I have been eager to read these books about unexpected romance from many of my favorite authors. The series plays on the trope of sacrificial maidens  who learn that their "captors" are not what they appear to be and grow to love them. In other words, they can be interpreted as loose retellings of "Beauty and the Beast,"  one of the most beloved love stories. The first book in the series, Mountain of Dragons and Sacrifice  by Tara Grayce , is a quintessential starting point for this series. I recently reviewed Netflix's Damsel , which had a similar premise but was marred by modern agendas and stereotypes of what it means to be a princess today . In many ways, this story is the opposite of Damsel , taking a damsel who believes her life will be threatened by a fearsome dragon before learning she doesn't need physical strength to defeat it and that what is inside her heart is already enough. I wa

Review: Time Princess - The Underground City

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Where Infinite Shimmer , the last visual novel in Time Princess , encompasses everything romantic and girly in a seemingly misplaced cyberpunk setting, The Underground City: Stirring Shadows does quite the opposite. Although the dystopian world of The Underground City is so similar to Infinite Shimmer that it could have easily been a spinoff about a different character living a different life, Sera's circumstances are not nearly as appealing as Aurora's. This visual novel takes everything a player would expect from the genre instead of twisting it into a Barbie-like setting . While this is great for fans of dark gritty dystopian worlds, it feels out of place for such a bright girly game as Time Princess that features a fairy who gives the protagonist the power to become anyone. While not appealing to my personal tastes, this novel demonstrates the game's versatility to players who enjoy all types of stories. Underground City players are transformed into Sera, a tragic figur

Happy International Mermaid Day!

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Today is International Mermaid Day , and it comes with big news for mermaid fans. I recently shared a leaked promo video for Disney Junior's Ariel that was taken down shortly after. Today, in honor of International Mermaid Day, an official teaser was launched containing only footage from the show without any of the interviews from its creators. There was also an update from Rainbow SpA 's upcoming animated series, Mermaid Magic , which is scheduled to release around the same time period as Ariel. Finally, my friend Kae-Leah Williamson's Wattpad book, The Siren Queen , was recently completed along with a lovely romantic prequel set in a fictional mer-universe called The Servant Girl and the Sea Prince . Though it does not have a specific release date yet, the first official teaser for Disney Junior's Ariel took the internet by storm today. It is reported to premiere sometime this summer on Disney Junior and Disney+. The teaser featured new footage of characters that

Review: Princess Peach Showtime!

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I was late to the party with my review of Super Princess Peach , so I decided to be more timely with her latest installment, Princess Peach™: Showtime!  for the Nintendo Switch that launched last Friday. The game is a mix between the dress-up elements of Time Princess  and the gameplay elements of Disney Princess Enchanted Journey / My Fairytale Adventure . Although it provides more of a challenge than the Disney Princess games of the past as one might expect of a Super Mario Bros.  title, it can easily be completed in a full day, which makes the steep price tag questionable. Still, Princess Peach's newest title is visually pleasing, entertaining, and fun to play. The game begins with Princess Peach entering a large theater run by the Sparklas, generic muppet-like creatures  that populate the Showtime! worlds. As soon as she arrives, a magic tornado blasts her tiara off her head. A talking star named Stella appears and replaces it with a magic hair ribbon that allows her to transfo

Review: A Spark of Storms

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A Spark of Storms  by Susannah Welch is a gender-bent retelling of "Aladdin."  This is far from a new concept for me, so the obvious Disney influence on the cover was what first attracted me to this book. The Disney version of Aladdin  is very different from the original fairy tale. The author uses that story as inspiration and makes it her own in a clever way while building a female-empowered fantasy world that gives a strong start to her Heart of the Queendom series. Though the feminist messaging of this book is a little overstated, it aligns perfectly with the archetype of Princess Jasmine feeling trapped by her culture  and its treatment of women. In this case, it's a prince named Jaemin who feels trapped in a world where only female heirs can ascend the throne. Alanna is a street rat who uses her charms to manipulate those around her for her own survival. Her life takes a surprising turn when she is rescued by a mysterious pink-haired woman. Geeni, her rescuer, off

Review: Framed in Florals

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There are so many retellings of "Cinderella"  that one would think it would be impossible for a new version of it to be fresh and original. Yet, Abigail Manning  proves that it is possible with Framed in Florals , a lovely and suspenseful adaptation of "Cinderella." This book is most similar to Amazon Prime's 2021  Cinderella  jukebox musical  only much better. Both adaptations feature Cinderella as an entrepreneur who attends the ball to pursue her career ambitions with the handsome stranger she'd encountered previously as a bonus perk. Both Cinderellas are enchanted so their stepfamilies won't recognize them, but the prince knows exactly who she is.  Framed in Florals  goes a step further by throwing some truly devious and fearsome villains into the mix for a thrilling climax that will keep readers on the edge of their seats. As far as wicked stepmothers go, this book really takes the cake. Sapphira is the most horrible and abusive woman any orphan gi

Review: Damsel (Netflix)

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A year and a half after Hulu's  The Princess , a film about a generic fairy tale princess picking up a sword and saving herself, is owned by Hulu, Neflix decided to take on their own version of the trope with  Damsel , a film about a general fairy tale princess picking up a sword and...saving herself? Though these two films share similar themes, the primary foe in Damsel  is a mythological dragon instead of a greedy conqueror, giving Netflix's take on the overdone plot more of a fantasy feel. However, the sweet taste of magic is as fleeting as the film's promise of happiness to its sacrificial brides. Like The Princess , Damsel  is a gritty action flick with little levity. I found The Princess  enjoyable enough for what it is, and Damsel , though generic, has its moments as well. The first act is particularly eye-pleasing with breathtaking imagery of castles, gowns, and indulgence in the royal life before the film's visuals and plot plummet into a dark pit. Elodie is a

Review: CPHS Princess Tea - Ariel's Treasure Hunt

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The best time of the year is back! Every year, the Cedar Park High School Choir  gets together to write a brand-new show filled with princesses, songs, and games for its annual Princess Tea . This year's show, Ariel's Treasure Hunt , is the third one I attended since moving to the area. Many things remained the same such as the lobby set up with fairy tale photo ops, royal souvenirs, and the castle entryway, but there were plenty of surprises to be found during the performance as well. The female choral group, known as the Seasons, dominated this year's show with a wide array of Disney Princesses, while the male singing group, Pitch Black, cosplayed various Disney heroes, supported the princesses, and performed several group numbers during the intermission. I sat at the Cinderella table, which was adorned with an old storybook, an autographed note, and a clock stuck at midnight. This year's show, which is freshly written by students each year, revolves around Ariel wan

Review: The Net that Holds Me

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The Net that Holds Me  by Scarlett Luna Strange is a bare-bones minimalist retelling of "The Little Mermaid" with virtually no stakes. I learned about it from the recent Valentine's Day book promotion and decided to throw in the anchor because I usually love "Little Mermaid" retellings and even wrote  one of my own . The book is innocent and inoffensive for the most part, but it mitigates the majority of the tragic themes that make "The Little Mermaid" such a classic story and comes off as disrespectful toward the original protagonist at one point near the end. As a standalone YA romance, it's a short and sweet love story that can be finished in about two hours, but as a "Little Mermaid" retelling, it doesn't hold a lot of water. Anyone who has read or seen a "Little Mermaid" adaptation knows the drill. Sage is a lonely mermaid who is bored with her life under the sea and thirsts for something more. One fateful day, she me

National Tell a Fairy Tale Day Is Back!

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National Tell a Fairy Tale Day has quickly become one of my favorite days of the year. Once obscure and unknown, February 26th has become the best day to score amazing bargains on fairy tale adaptations from all the best fantasy authors. These annual festivities started as a Facebook party  with many reader interactions. Last year, independent author and fairy tale queen  Brittany Fichter  decided to host the event as a series of linked blog posts  which, though more accessible, creates less opportunity for live interactions with the authors. However, the celebrations continue to include a vast array of fairy tale-related games, activities, and free or discounted ebooks to read throughout the year. This year's fairy tale webring, Once Upon 2024, features 13 authors of various fairy tale adaptation series. Each author made a post introducing herself, sharing some fun fairy tale-related activities, and contributed at least one complimentary ebook from her collection. The authors inc

Review: Ella and the Elf

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Ella and the Elf  by Anabelle Raven  was an unexpected treat from this month's Valentine's Day promotion . It is a sweet reimagining of "Cinderella"  set in a world of elves and magic. The human/elf romance dynamics are similar to Tara Grayce's Elven Alliance series , but the characters and their stories are very different. This is a "Romeo and Juliet" style romance about an interracial relationship between two star-crossed lovers and the obstacles they must face to be together against all odds. Though the story touches on slavery, it never gets as dark as Celeste Baxendell's Runes of Pain and Peace series . The romance is charming, and the characters are refreshingly straightforward about their feelings toward each other. Ella and Altair's "Meet Cute" begins similarly to Andrew Lloyd Webber's recent "Cinderella" adaptation  in which one lover finds the other tied to a tree and releases them. In this case, Ella discovers t